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The Problem with Expectations — 6 Comments

  1. Dear Al,
    I think a lot of my frustrations come from creating expectations in my mind. I think I spend a great deal of my time posturing as an introvert, and I have trouble keeping my thought process dialogical. I tend to have daydreams where I project, positively and negatively, about something or someone in my life. I think I lose touch with reality when I concoct these projections. I think my lizard has a hard time relaxing because I create. I think that I have a difficult time "living in the moment", because I think it is necessary to dwell on these thoughts, like I am obligated to be a thinking man at all times. I'm really exhausted with analyzing my thoughts and other people's actions. I also can't seem to get out of other people heads, like I'm always trying to predict what is possibly going through other people's minds and how they perceive me and my actions. I think I begin to look back and analyze things I've said and done, even before the converstaion or event is over. I get lost in my head. What do you suggest? I've tried using your one-liners as mantras, and sometimes they help, but usually I get the better of myself and allow these "fantasies" to unfold.
    I guess I should also tell you that I consider myself a concept sketch artist, and that these "flights of fancy" sometimes have a positive purpose, as they allow me to broaden my imagination. So I guess I still would like to embark on these mind projections, but I would like to do it responsibly.
    Thank you for your time and advice. You've been one of the most helpful human beings in my life these past few years, and I will always be grateful for your wisdom.

    • Dear Johnny,

      Yup. Two different things come to mind.

      When I was little, I was aware I was quite different from other people and had to work very hard to keep "how different I was" from them. It was a bitch. Eventually I came to hear about the Ugly Duckling (and later "The Women Who Run with the Wolves", etc.) Once I got the idea that 3 month before I was worn, a thick manual was Fedexed to my parents. It was called The Operation Manual for Al Turtle, and it contained lots of details about what I would need to be a happy, whole person. Somehow the manual got lost in transit. I've had to rewrite it during my adult life by reading through all the troubles I've had. You sound as if you are working on the Operation Manual for Johnny.

      Second thought is about finding your "home" or your "family" of your kind of Swans. I like the idea that a Mentor is a person who is a bunch older and who has lived through the kinds of problems you are facing – who can demonstrate by their breathing body that one can live through the learning process. My guess is that you sound like someone who belongs to the Fire Clan. (Read Healing Wisdom of Africa by Malidoma Some.)

      Tough. Good luck.

  2. Well, to get across my thougths it might be useful to think of launching the Space Shuttle. Let's make this about three different events: a) before the launch, b) what happens during the launch and c) after the launch.
    As I understand it, human kids are the least prepared for life (at the time of birth) of any creatures on earth. Human kids continue developing critical skills for years after birth and require much support and many resources from their caretakers for quite a time. Child development is quite a wonderful study, which you can learn from better educational resources that I am.
    Somewhere between 6 and 8 a kid shifts to being self-sufficient or at least able to be a full human with integrity at the brain development level any way. I don't think of them as completely developed yet, since they miss the ability for abstract thinking. But they begin the process of disconnecting from their caretakers and enter into peer relationships at this age. This is analogous to all the excitement of the space shuttle as is goes onto its own power, launches up, picks up speed, finally settles into orbit. Kind of wild!
    From now on human kids are learning the skills of getting along and witnessing others getting along in a social world. They may not be very well trained (but then many adults seem pretty untrained – consider our congress at times 🙂 ), but I believe they automatically tend to think of themselves as unique and independent.
    Before this “switch over” they depend on their caretakers. After this change, they increasingly learn self-sufficiency, and their need for their caretakers recedes into the background. This is normal.
    This is my image that I have come to over quite a few years. It works for me, so I keep it and share it.
    I think the task of caretakers is to assist this “natural” process. To under nurture a kid under this age, I think, is just as bad as over-nurturing a kid over that age. Both, I think could easily fall into the arena of damaging growing people.
    So for me, I use the humorous phrase “lucky to get Oxygen” to challenge people to encourage themselves and others to break up any neotanous behaviors that we humans tend to display – childish behaviors in adults. I like to remind people that, as adults, they have to earn what they get.
    Tis just my thinking. Hope this helps.

  3. I am curious to hear more about why you believe that children are “entitled” only until the age or 7 or 8.
    Would you please expand on your views, experience and beliefs as to what happens at the age of 7 or 8 that triggers the being lucky to get O2 and needing to earn everything one gets.
    Best regards,
    Melanie from LA

  4. Hi Al,
    I'm wondering – what's the best way to deal with disappointment? F'rex: My H and I have recently started your Caring Days exercise. Yesterday, it was my turn to be cared for. I listed 6 things, he did 2 of them during the day and 2 more right at bed time. 2 things didn't get done at all. The point of the exercise is not that ALL things should be done, so it would seem that this is an example of a rather decent performance of the exercise.
    Still, I had a hard time keeping myself from feeling disappointed. Of course, the 2 things he didn't manage to do were the 2 things that I wanted most. 🙂
    My first instinct is to ask him to be more vocal about the requests. I feel fine if he doesn't manage to do all of them, as long as he acknowledges they're there, and hasn't just 'forgotten' them. “Honey, I know you wanted to go out for a walk in the park tonight, but I really have this thing from work and I'll be distracted and stressed if I don't finish this first.” Or even, “Sorry, I didn't manage to get you flowers because I completely forgot about it until I walked in the door.”
    As you may guess, it's a sore spot for me. He often promises things and doesn't come through – either 'forgetting' completely or starting at the last possible minute and then (understandably) finding out that the thing he promised to do won't take that short a time! Then he wants to reschedule, which would have been fine by me if he'd asked me before the promised date, instead of on or after it. Now, I'm still willing to reschedule, but I really want a hug and a 'yeah, I messed up today. Forgive me?' or something like that. He hates being reminded or asked for plans, and he hates apologising, but I hate just KNOWING that he'll renege on a particular promise and just having to sit there & watch it happen. And still he's frustrated when he gets the idea that I don't trust him! I'm sure that's not a nice realisation, and I do trust him with a lot of things, but not always with his word.
    Is it a good thing to ask him to at least verbally acknowledge things he won't be able to do, or is it counterproductive? I don't want to get on his case for not doing the exercise 'right' (= as I wanted him to do it) because that's not exactly motivating, but I don't want to lie & tell him I'm on cloud 9 either. And I haven't yet been able to work through these disappointments myself.
    When are you allowed to 'expect' something? When I'm promised something, I want to be able to expect either the fulfillment of the promise or a rescheduling, or be 'allowed' to help him remember or ask for details.
    And the other way around: how do you deal with another person's disappointment? One of his requests this morning was for me to make him a cup of coffee. My morning schedule is already really cramped, whereas he does nothing in the morning. (Literally. I get up, have breakfast, feed the cats, do my morning exercises. He gets up approximately half an hour later than I do, has a cup of coffee because he can't eat in the mornings and watches tv until he has to leave.) Which is fine, but making him a cup of coffee that's not too cold to drink when he gets up or too hot to finish before he has to leave would entail me pausing my morning exercises to do this for him. I'd be really uncomfortable with that, bacause my mornings are already full and I really don't want to have to get up even earlier, since I get too little sleep as it is. And besides, all the parts of my morning routines serve a really important purpose to me. 🙂 So – I told him I wouldn't be able to meet this request. Which is fine, because not all the requests have to be met. But still, he was disappointed and immediately got kinda stressed and distant. Which is normal, I guess – I was disappointed too, even though it would have been less if he had talked to me about it, but still I just hate that! All my alarm bells start ringing, especially when he adds things like 'I thought maybe your morning routine wasn't that important to you.' I immediately feel I have to knuckle under and give up what I want to make sure he's not disappointed, which makes me want to rebel and tell him that I'm important here, too, you know? I'm kinda sensitive to criticisms like that (and he's quite generous with them – he has all these ways that things 'should' be done and has in the past often told me I'm wrong for not wanting them exactly that way) so it's insta-stress for me.
    I try to validate his feelings, but so far fail miserably. I think I have the Pre-Validation thing down pat. Of course he makes sense, I believe that with every fiber of my being. But very often when I try to validate him, in the end he'd be shocked that I didn't come over to his position. He often tells me “It's impossible to convince you of anything!” Which is true in a way, I suppose. When I have an opinion, I'm generally convinced I'm right. Otherwise I'd have selected another opinion. When he has great arguments that completely blow mine out of the water, I'm happy to adopt this new-and-improved opinion. When his arguments and mine can happily live side-by-side, I'm sticking with mine, even though his are logical, too – they're just not mine.
    So, when I try to validate him and focus completely on validating him, we'll be in a fight afterwards because I'm 'too stubborn.' When I validate him while reminding me I have a different opinion, it doesn't seem to make him feel validated at all, and we'll still be in a fight. Of course he makes sense, but I want there to be a space for my sense too in this relationship! (And I guess it even makes sense for him to think I don't make sense, but it still sucks.)
    Well, sorry for this long and not particularly on-topic diatribe. I hope you can offer me a clue or two to make this whole mess somewhat easier.

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